By Tracey Dowdy
According to the World Health Organization, over 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, but fewer than half of them receive any treatments.
It’s a statistic that seemed all too relatable for Amanda Johnstone, who lost twelve friends to suicide. Though the reasons each took their own life varied, they had one common denominator. “They all thought they were a burden, and it was too hard to keep reaching out,” says Johnstone.
To manage her grief and hyper-aware of the need for emotional support, Johnstone cam up with the idea of organizing close friends into a group SMS text that would serve as a routine, low-key mental health check-up. Every day at 4 pm, each would rate their mental state on a scale of one to ten, so those who were struggling had immediate resources and support.
Johnstone’s idea was even better in practice than in theory, so she took the idea to a developer who helped her create “Be a Looper,” a free peer-support app enabling users to touch base with five friends daily. Launched in November 2017, Be A Looper has spread to 76 countries—with Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. as the top three users—and was nominated for the 2018 Global Mobile Awards.
The apps help users to both share how their day is tracking and keeps a close eye on those that may need support. Users can add up to five ‘Loopers’ into their network, and all networks are private. When an individual Looper is added, they are prevented from seeing other people. Instead – they get to create their safe network. The app doesn’t work offline, but users don’t need to have cellular reception just be connected to the internet (either via WiFi or via data) to use the Be A Looper app.
“We are all on our phones all the time, so it made so much sense to create something that’s already in people’s hands, which gives them that nudge to reach out and take a little bit of care of each other,” says Johnstone.
If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. In emergencies, call 911 or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.